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Federal President impressed by future-oriented thinking at InfectoGnostics

The Federal President Joachim Gauck visited the InfectoGnostics Research Campus Jena on Wednesday the 23rd of November 2016. “I am highly impressed with the future-oriented thinking that prevails here on the Campus” – this is how Federal President Joachim Gauck summed up his impressions of the discussion that took place with scientists, medical doctors and industry representatives in Jena. President Gauck discussed the problem of multi-resistant pathogens with researchers at InfectoGnostics and learned about new methods for the early diagnosis of sepsis and pneumonia.

The German Federal President Joachim Gauck talking about new diagnositic methods with InfectoGnostics spokesman Prof. Jürgen Popp. (Copyright: InfectoGnostics/Jens Meyer)

The discussion panel with the President particularly focused on the problem of growing antibiotic resistance worldwide. “Infections that we were able to treat without any difficulty just a few years ago can now only be controlled using reserve antibiotics, and some strains of bacteria have already become resistant even to these last resort drugs,” said Prof. Mathias Pletz, medical coordinator of the InfectoGnostics core project and head infectologist at Jena University Hospital – highlighting the perilous situation we are now facing.

President Gauck showed considerable interest in the subject, and asked how this arms race against continuously adapting pathogens could be won in practice. “Through quick and accurate diagnoses and personalised therapy,” answered Prof. Jürgen Popp, summing up the most important InfectoGnostics solution approach in just a few words. Prof. Popp is the director of the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology, as well as Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Jena and the spokesman for the Research Campus management board. The approach proposed by the Research Campus is based on early cooperation between researchers, hospitals and industry. “Here, we work closely in a public-private partnership to ensure that the many ideas produced by our researchers can actually be developed into products that help people.”

Plans to miniaturise an innovative photonic diagnostic technique

The InfectoGnostics researchers presented some initial diagnostic solutions to the Federal President, all of which were developed through the close partnership at the Research Campus. Alongside “CarbDetect”, a quick test for identifying multi-resistant bacteria developed by the InfectoGnostics partner Alere Technologies, particular focus was placed on the “Bio Particle Explorer”. This device uses laser spectroscopic measurement techniques and intelligent statistical evaluation to identify which pathogens are present in a patient sample, and in what quantities.

Yet this is only the beginning, according to Prof. Popp: “We want to gradually increase the performance and reduce the size of these currently very expensive devices. The goal is to achieve affordable and convenient diagnostics that can be used independently by doctors, nurses, or even patients themselves.”

Additional guests included the Minister President of Thuringia Bodo Ramelow, the Lord Mayor of Jena Albrecht Schröter, and Prof. Walter Rosenthal, President of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena – all of whom also participated in the discussion with the Federal President.

InfectoGnostics Research Campus Jena
The InfectoGnostics Research Campus Jena is a public-private partnership breaking new ground in the diagnosis of infections and pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. InfectoGnostics is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the “Research Campus – Public-Private Partnership for Innovation” funding initiative, with additional support provided by the State of Thuringia. About half of the Campus budget is financed by the InfectoGnostics partners.

In its central campus project, InfectoGnostics is researching quick, reliable and non-invasive methods for diagnosing pathogens that cause pneumonia, as well as studying their resistances in the context of immunosuppression. The early identification of pathogens and their resistances is vital to the achievement of effective antibiotic therapy.

The founding partners of the Research Campus are the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and the University Hospital, together with the University of Applied Sciences Jena; the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz-IPHT); the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology – Hans Knöll Institute (Leibniz HKI); and Analytik Jena AG and Alere Technologies GmbH – both companies specialising in medical diagnostics and analytical techniques. Over 30 partners contribute to the Research Campus in total, and together they are pursuing a long-term research and development strategy.